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What are primitive and non-primitive data types?

Answer: A data type is a classification of data, which can store a specific type of information. Data types are primarily used in computer programming, in which variables are created to store data. Each variable is assigned a data type that determines what type of data the variable may contain.

The term "data type" and "primitive data type" are often used interchangeably. Primitive data types are predefined types of data, which are supported by the programming language. For example, integer, character, and string are all primitive data types. Programmers can use these data types when creating variables in their programs. For example, a programmer may create a variable called "lastname" and define it as a string data type. The variable will then store data as a string of characters.

Non-primitive data types are not defined by the programming language, but are instead created by the programmer. They are sometimes called "reference variables," or "object references," since they reference a memory location, which stores the data. In the Java programming language, non-primitive data types are simply called "objects" because they are created, rather than predefined. While an object may contain any type of data, the information referenced by the object may still be stored as a primitive data type.

Published: August 8, 2009 — by Per Christensson

Answer from the PC Help Center